Even in a city filled to the brim with fast-food history—from Pink’s to Carney’s to the world’s oldest McDonald’s—Tail o’ the Pup stands out. Before it was shuttered in 2005, the frankfurter-shaped sausage stand had been an iconic, if eccentric, L.A. landmark, appearing in scores of TV shows and films. Once it even went airborne, dangling from a helicopter, La Dolce Vita-style, in Steve Martin’s L.A. Story.
And now—hot dog!—the Pup is making a Hollywood comeback, thanks to the 1933 Group, a local hospitality company that’s been busily resuscitating a bunch of disappeared L.A. landmarks. After spending nearly two decades in a deep storage facility in Torrance, the 17-foot-long wiener has been given a stem to stern makeover and reopened in July at Santa Monica Boulevard and La Cienega in West Hollywood.
“When I was ten years old, my mom took us to L.A. for the first time,” says Bobby Green, co-owner of the 1933 Group, which has also reimagined the Bigfoot Lodge in Los Feliz, Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood, and the Formosa cafe in West Hollywood, “and when I got back to Oklahoma, there were only three things I remembered about the trip: the palm trees, the Hollywood sign, and Tail o’ the Pup.” He adds, “It’s just one of those things that you see in the drive-scape of Los Angeles that is so iconic—even more so than the Chinese Theatre or the Capitol Records Building. It’s so in your face and over the top and adorable. So when I had the chance to bring it back, I jumped at it.”
The restaurant’s very first location, when it opened to fanfare on June 27, 1946, was a few blocks away, at 311 N. La Cienega Boulevard, although at one point, in the 1980s, it moved to a parking lot at Cedars-Sinai. Its original owners were Veloz and Yolanda, a world-famous 1940s dance team who commissioned architect Milton Black to create an edifice that would stand out among L.A’.s eclectic urban landscape. (Even in the ’40s, there were structures shaped like chili bowls and tamales, not to mention the famous Brown Derby). Frank Veloz and Yolanda Casazza’s eldest son, Nick Veloz, ran the eatery until the 1970s, then sold it to restaurateur Eddie Blake, who, along with his son, Dennis, kept the dogs grilling until 2005, when the Blakes lost their lease and put the structure into storage at that warehouse in Torrance.
When Blake’s grandson, Jay Miller, inherited the big wiener, he made a few attempts to revive it—ill-fated partnerships with Killer Shrimp and, later, with the Caruso Group—that never went anywhere. Ultimately, Miller donated it to the Valley Relics Museum, which never did much with it either and, in 2018, turned it over to the 1933 Group, which now owns both the structure and the brand.
Along with meticulously renovating the original structure, the 1933 Group has given it some updates, including a counter for indoor dining (the original was for takeout only) and some new artwork on the walls (photos of Sigourney Weaver and other celebrities chowing down on the Pup’s dogs). The menu has been carefully restored and includes favorites from the 1946 kitchen, such as the foot-long Baseball Pup. Among the new additions are a children’s menu, “Bowser Beer” for dogs (with leash hooks nearby), and, for the first time ever, alcohol.
“I describe my style as sympathetic restoration,” says Green. “I don’t erase the character flaws that have been added over the years; I keep them intact. The dents, bruises, and layers of underpaint remain to tell their own story.”
Appropriately, getting the structure’s layers of mustard-colored paint just right was particularly critical to Green, who says he agonized over the “perfect shade” of hot dog-friendly yellow until the day the stand reopened.
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